The sale of “Walmarthon”, the beautiful 41-acre estate of the late Charles S. Walton, to the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as announced in “The Suburban” of April 27, stirs many memories among those who have lived in this vicinity since before 1913, the year that the 40-room house was built by one of Radnor township’s most prominent families. Perhaps the most vivid of these to the general public is that of the Harvest Home Fete given on the grounds of the Walton estate on October 14 and 15, 1915, two years after the completion of one of “the lordly castles of the Main Line.” It was the largest affair of the kind that had been given in the vicinity up to that time. And in the memory of this columnist there has never been one since to equal it.
Founded in 1912 by a group of public-spirited citizens with the purpose of improving the health and living conditions i this community, the Neighborhood League was an organization that needed both funds and the support of the community to carry on its fast-expanding program of activities that reached from Radnor to Paoli, out of a meeting in May, 1912. At the home on St. Davids road, formerly occupied by the Charles Waltons, had come the organization of the Neighborhood League. The family always lent its active support. When plans were made for a large money-making affair for the benefit of the League, it was the Waltons who offered the grounds of their beautiful new estate for that purpose. The object of the Harvest Home Fete, as stated in its extensive publicity, was “to aid the Neighborhood League, which is constantly lending a helping hand to the sick and needy from Radnor to Paoli.”
And in spite of inclement weather the Harvest Home Fete turned well over $3500 into the treasury of the league at the end of two days at the walton estate and a third day at the Saturday Club. Never have so many organizations cooperated on one local affair, never have so many individuals worked so faithfully and so long on any one project.
Heading the organization of the entire affair was Miss Grace Roberts, whose executive ability showed itself in her management of so many groups of people. There were all the churches of Wayne, the Nursing Committee of the Neighborhood League, the Bryn Mawr Social Service, the Garden Club, Saturday Club, the George W. Childs Library, Primary Class, Radnor Presbyterian Church, Friends Meeting, Men’s Club of Wayne, W. C. T. U., North Wayne Protective Association, Wayne Public Safety Association, Radnor Fire Company, Radnor Township Commissioners, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls. Even some 36 years afterwards almost all of these organizations are in existence in Wayne. Two, however, are reminiscent of a time that is past, the Suffrage group and the Anti-Suffrage group! Both did their share at the fete. The Suffrage Party, headed by Miss Anna Atkinson, had charge of the “Baby Rest Tent” while the Anti-Suffrage Party, headed by Mrs. J. Gardner Cassatt, had the “Practical Booth”.
Assisting Miss Roberts on her executive committee were Mrs. Charles S. Walton, vice-chairman; Mrs. N. T. Brent, secretary; Miss Bertha G. Ball, assistant secretary and Dr. A. H. O’Neal as treasurer. Mrs. Louis J. Palmer, chairman of decorations; R. C. Ware, printing; A. M. Ehart, publicity; Mrs. W. H. Roberts, Jr., tickets; Mrs. Charles G. Tatnall, supper, and Mrs. Walter S. Yeatts, program. The long lists given in full in the program booklet of the Harvest Home Fete present a fascinating roster of names to anyone familiar with Wayne of the past and the present.
Advance publicity in the affair as given in “The Suburban”, as well as in the various Philadelphia newspapers of that era tell of many well-laid plans for the success of the big day. A Red Cross tent which had been obtained for the occasion by General T. E. Wiedersheim was to take care of any and all emergencies. Under the chairmanship of Mrs. Robert G. Wilson this would be “a retreat for anybody needing first aid.” Besides Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. John Moyer, Mrs. R. C. Hughes and Miss Lorean Fuller would be in attendance, all wearing the uniform of the different hospitals in which they received their training. Also connected with the Red Cross tent was a soda fountain, where Miss Dorothy Badger, assisted by Miss Dorothy Wolfe and Miss Toland would “dispense cooling drinks for the thirsty.”
“Ye Book Shop” was the name of the table sponsored by the Board of Managers of the George W. Childs Memorial Library, with Mrs. William V. Alexander as chairman, assisted by Mrs. W. W. Hearne, Mrs. David T. Dickson, Mrs. George H. Wilson, Mrs. George A. Shoemaker, Mrs. W. H. Sayen, Mrs. Sheldon Catlin, Mrs. J. Dutton Steele, Mrs. Theodore E. Wiedersheim and Mrs. Louis D. Erben. Here all manner of donated books were on sale.
The Parcel-post booth was in charge of St. Mary’s Church, with Mrs. Matthew Randall as chairman, assisted by Miss Fanny Wood, Miss Nancy Hallowell and Miss Florence Fulweller. “In appearance”, the parcel post station will be a brick building and distinguished from the others on that account” according to some of the advance publicity.
Indeed, so many and so varied were the attractions that an information bureau was set up near the main entrance of Walmarthon to direct visitors to the various booths. Here, too, was a large plan of the grounds, duplicated in smaller space on the back of the attractive programs printed for the occasion. A band of Camp Fire Girls, working under the direction of a committee headed by Miss Agnes Nichols, were to act as guides.
For these many attractions and others that will be described in this column such a large attendance was anticipated that “five large barges” were to be kept in service steadily between the St. Davids station and Walmarthon. Those were the days when both horse-drawn vehicles and automobiles were on the road. Colonel William H. Sayen, the president of the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners, promised “ample police aid–especially in the matter of supervising the parking of automobiles,” which would be accommodated in a field close by.
(To be continued)